UC Irvine men’s volleyball has been bound for greatness since the pre-season, but after the match against the University of Southern California, greatness is now only a few steps away.
The Anteaters hosted the resilient but splotchy Trojans on Wednesday, the first of the team’s two critical matches of the week. The Anteaters eliminated any prior questions about their focus as they went on to win in four games, 30-15, 22-30, 30-25, 30-24.
The first rumble of the crowd was followed by the pummeling the Anteaters gave the Trojans in the first set.
The energy was electric at the start, and the players reflected that with a dominating showing in the first set. They outplayed the fourth-ranked Trojans for the entirety of the set with some intense momentum on the side of the Anteaters.
“Sometimes it’s hard to play a random Wednesday night match,” said Head Coach John Speraw. “It hard to maintain that competitive nature throughout the long grind of the season, but it was nice to see we had it against the Trojans tonight.”
With the exception of a wild second set that saw the Anteaters become out-hit .303 to .032, it was the rest of the match that mattered as Irvine out-blocked the visiting Trojans, 15.5 to 6.
Sophomore Jordan DuFualt led the fray with 17 kills and senior Taylor Wilson with 15 kills and a career-high seven block assists. Senior Ryan Ammerman put in a good showing with 49 assists and 10 digs.
The win happened in front of 2,421 fans on Wednesday night, but it was a mere warm-up for Saturday’s match against top-ranked Pepperdine.
UCI 3 Pepperdine 0
Get out your brooms and start proclaiming, “overrated.”
Irvine smoked the top-ranked team in the nation in straight sets at the Bren Events Center in front of a season-high 2,587 fans.
It was a phenomenal display of Irvine’s continuing dominance in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation as it improved its record to 22-4 overall and 17-3 in league play.
It was all Anteaters from the first serve to the last, and Pepperdine had no answers for Irvine’s onslaught and domination at the net. It only took the Anteaters three sets to put the Waves away, 30-29, 30-24, 30-22.
To win this crucial match, the Anteaters prepared all week and needed to focus on how to stop Pepperdine’s leading hitter, Paul Carroll
The preparation worked.
Carroll did not have a bad night, but unlike the last meeting between the two teams where Carroll had 34 kills, the Anteaters held him to just 19 kills. This was key to the Anteater’s victory over this very impressive team.
Ryan Ammerman led the team in stats and presence. He totaled an impressive 47 assists, three kills, five digs, five blocks and two aces. But the big night belonged to the young guys; freshman Carson Clark had a team-high 16 kills and sophomore Jordan DuFault knocked down 14 kills.
But the seniors didn’t fail to impress on senior night. Senior Taylor Wilson smacked 10 kills and racked up six block assists as senior Brent Asuka put in a team-best 11 digs. Fifth-year senior Jon Steller also made his presence known from the bench as he slotted an ace in the match.
This was a very important match for the Anteaters, and they go into the last two matches of the season now as the favorites to win it all. It was also important because they are almost guaranteed a home game for the first match of the conference championships.
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